Chapter 23 : Ch 21: Confessions and Discussions
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Ch 21: Confessions and Discussions
“This can’t be… how can Linda? No, this is completely stupid, I’m sure we’ve got something wrong here…” Blaise was shaking his head. He hadn’t known the Blonde for long, but being with her even for a month felt like ages and he couldn’t just digest the fact that she could try to harm them.
Alicia had left the hospital ward some time ago. Blaise, Draco, Hermione, Ron, Harry, Parvati, Ginny and Theo all sat around the bed Maddy lay in, mulling over what they’d all heard and pieced together. They had quietly sat down and analyzed everything about Lind Johnson, and realized, that there were indeed many things seemingly wrong about her when they sat down and thought over about everything that had happened with her since the day she’d come.
“But… if we’re really wrong, then tell me Blaise, why are all the clues pointing towards her? Why is she not present with us right now? I had always felt that something fishy was going on with her but thinking she’s my friend I disregarded my suspicions. But now, it has come to too much, and I don’t know if it is wise anymore to be non-practical. We all need to be logical and really find out what is going on.” Hermione said, her lips set in a thin line and her brow furrowed.
Blaise sighed and took her hand in his. “We’ll work it out… don’t stress yourself.”
“Zabini is right Mi… I don’t think it is advisable for you to exhaust yourself right now. You’ve just been out of bed-rest!” Ron chimed in and she gave an exasperated sigh.
“This isn’t about me anymore guys… we cannot just sit and do nothing. And I’m perfectly fine, thank you.” She snapped when she saw Draco and Harry open their mouths to argue.
The tension in the air was tangible as everyone was lost in their own thoughts… wondering what the hell was going on and how had they even landed here, that too all together.
“Hey people, did you guys realize our Christmas holidays start in 3 days?!” Parvati chirped suddenly and they all looked at her like she was a bit insane. “What?” she said defensively, “I was just trying to lighten the mood.”
“Vati is right guys… you’re all getting too tensed over this… especially you Mi.”
“You’re saying this Maddy?! Look at the state you’re in right now!” Ron blurted before Hermione could say anything.
“Come on Ron, I’m fine…really. And stop fretting everyone, I am sure we’ll figure out everything in some time.”
“Exactly!” Hermione mumbled suddenly. “We need time and Christmas is perfect for it.”
When questioning looks met her, she explained.
“See, we need time to figure all this out before it is too late, right? And we’re never going to get anywhere if we keep bustling in and out of classes, trying to get piles of homework to be done and stuff. We need some free time which we’ll perfectly get during the Christmas holidays.”
“Um, how do we exactly work this all out during these holidays when we’re all going to scattered?” Draco raised a brow.
“Well, let us not get scattered then. I don’t know about you guys, but I am cancelling my trip to Berlin. I’ll owl my parents and let them know that I won’t be able to accompany them. Instead, I will stay at Hogwarts and mull things over.”
“Do you think staying back here would help?” Ginny asked frowning.
“Of Course Gin, in fact, I have a gut feeling that if anything is going to happen, it is going to happen in these holidays… and we all know stuff happens at Hogwarts.” She gave a sort of grin and Harry shook his head.
“So basically you’re going to cancel your trip to Berlin for something that you’re not even sure is going to happen or not?”
“Harry, I think Hogwarts needs me much more than Berlin does. I am staying and that’s final.” Hermione got up from the chair and made to leave, when a hand suddenly caught her elbow. She turned around to find that it was Blaise. She gave him a questioning look and he shrugged.
“What about us…I mean me?” He said in a voice that she knew wasn’t joking.
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean Blaise…” She replied cautiously.
“Hermione, we were supposed to meet up in Berlin, remember? I thought we’ll spend the holidays, or at least a part of them, together.”
“Blaise! How can you be so selfish?! Really… I think I just made it clear that we have much more pressing matters at hand rather than enjoying our vacations?” She tapped her foot impatiently.
He looked at her for a moment before leaving her hand.
“I am sorry, I was being stupid. Well in that case I’ll stay too.”
Draco coughed. Hermione bit her lip.
“It’s okay Blaise… you don’t have to stay. You should really go ahead and enjoy your holidays.”
“Now you’re being silly Mi. I am not going anywhere. I… I want to be with you.” He said, somewhat whispered.
Hermione could feel her friends’ burning stares and she swallowed before speaking.
“Blaise, I know you take me as a really good friend, and thank you so much for being there. The more brains to help, the better it is.” She tried to cover it up before the situation got out of hand, ‘cause she could feel something much deeper behind his words.
Blaise got up suddenly and said in a deep, serious voice, “I’ll always be happy to help you Mi… to support you, and to be with you.” He took a deep breath, looked at all the faces sitting around them, looked her in the eyes and continued, “Mi… This is not just because I take you as a good friend. The thing is, I really like you Hermione. And I want to be something much more than a friend to you. Will you-” Before he could even continue or Hermione could react, a fist had come flying in Blaise’s direction.
“Ron!” She shouted, horrified, and Harry tried to hold her friend steady while Blaise rubbed the spot on his chin where he has just been punched.
“How. Dare. You. Just because you have become a good friend, doesn’t mean you start hitting on Hermione, okay!”
“Ron, calm down, please.” Hermione said in a pleading voice and he looked at her once before heaving a deep sigh and sitting back down.
She then turned to Blaise who still stood rooted to his spot. She gently took his hand in hers.
Ignoring the angry burning stare of Draco, she softly told Blaise what she wanted to say. “Look Blaise, I like you but as nothing more than a friend. I’m so sorry, I really don’t want to hurt you, but we can really never be anything more than friends. You’re a very good person Blaise, and I’m sure one day you’ll find someone who is just right for you, but I’m not that person Blaise. I hope you…understand, and we can still be friends.” She bit her lip and he looked into those soft, full of concern, chocolate colored eyes which had enchanted him. He wanted to scream, to cry, to tell her that he would never find anyone else, because she had been the only one who had touched his heart that way. Instead, seeing the worried look on her face, he swallowed his feelings away and smiled.
“Of course ‘Mione… we’re always friends. I’ll get over you soon enough when I see some new chick… right?” He grinned, shook her hand before sitting down on the chair. “So… let us get back to the discussion, shall we?” He said in what he hoped was the right tone, trying to ignore the looks his ‘friends’ gave him.
“No.” Draco’s blunt reply made everyone look at him in confusion, and Hermione felt like her head would burst.
“What-” She started to say when he got up and clasped her hand in his but he silenced her with a look.
“Hermione and I have to tell you guys something.”
“Draco…not now.” She whispered, fearfully looking at Ron who looked ready to kill and at Harry whose eyes were narrowed in suspicion, and what she supposed was anger. Blaise looked as white as sheet while Theo, Ginny, Parvati and Maddy seemed quite normal.
“Yes, now.” Draco growled. “I don’t want something like this,” he gestured towards Blaise with their intwined hands, “to happen again. Guys, Hermione and I are together. We have been in a relationship since the past 2 months and are very much…in love… so I would really appreciate if you people just accepted it already. And Weasley, you better keep your fists to yourself, otherwise I’ll hit you ten times harder than you do.”
Hermione held her breath as the tension in the air just seemed to grow. She didn’t understand how their ‘discussion’ had switched from being about Linda to this.
“Well… I would say about time guys. Congrats…!” Theo got up and patted his best mate on the shoulder, trying to ease the tensed atmosphere.
“Er… yeah… well good that you finally decided to spill the beans.” Ginny grinned.
“Yeah, all the secret thing was kind of annoying.” Maddy said and Parvati nodded, giggling.
Hermione smiled at her friends gratefully before turning her attention to Blaise, Harry and Ron. They seemed to be still fixed in their previous position and she sighed. Finally, Harry got up and came to stand in front of her. She looked into his striking emerald green eyes cautiously and then heaved a sigh of relief as he gave her a small smile.
He cupped her face in his hands and said, “Hermione, are you okay with him?” He asked seriously.
“I am more than okay, Harry. Draco, really, is wonderful.” She gave him an assuring smile and he looked at her intently before nodding and letting go. He then turned to Draco, “Look if you ever hurt her, you’ll not be facing Harry, but Harry Potter – the guy who defeated Voldemort. Alright?”
Draco seemed ready to retort, but feeling the squeeze his girlfriend gave his hand, he settled for a stiff nod and a half-smile.
“Come on, Ron… stop being so overly-dramatic already.” Ginny told her brother, giving him a nudge.
Ron looked at the pair grumpily for shrugging.
“I go with what Harry said… though Malfoy, if you ever-”
“Yeah, yeah, we know Weasley; cut the crap really.” Draco said off-handedly and felt Hermione’s stern glare; he just smirked.
“Well, now that we’ve settled everything, I suggest let us all go down for dinner and then resume our discussion on the Christmas thing… or Linda thing… whichever.” Ginny suggested.
“Yeah, you’re right. Hey, I got an idea! Let us conduct the meeting in the Room Of Requirement. It will be all official and stuff then!” Theo said, brightening up at the idea.
“Hey, what about me?” Maddy complained.
“We can always come back and tell you what we talked. You cannot get out of here for the next few days Maddy…” Ron reminded her and she sighed.
“Right, all done now. Now let us please go and eat. I am dying of hunger here.” Parvati pulled Harry and he laughed before following her. Others followed suit, except for Hermione, Draco and Blaise.
“Um…Blaise, you’re okay, right?” Hermione asked him softly as he hadn’t said anything the whole time.
“Yeah ‘Mione, I’m all cool. And well, I would have much rather you’d told me before about you and Draco…would have saved me a lot of trouble, eh?” He grinned and she smiled. He was really trying.
She stepped forward (her hand was freed from Draco’s now) and gave him a small hug.
Blaise breathed in her scent and stifled a sigh. He knew she was the forbidden one now, and as long as she was happy, he vowed to never come in her way. He would always be there for her, but as a friend, like she wanted. She stepped back and he gave her a smile before stepping towards Draco.
“No hard feelings right mate?” He punched his shoulder playfully. Draco looked stiff for a moment before he relaxed and nodded.
“Don’t worry Blaise… as long as you don’t hit on my girlfriend, I’m your best mate.” He laughed and the three set off towards the Great Hall.
Maddy smiled. So much had happened over such a short span of time. She was afraid of what the future might hold, especially of what would happen in the Christmas holidays, but seeing all her friends today, bonded in a special way with Hermione holding them together, she knew they would pull through it.
“Dumbledore is still not back…” Draco told Hermione as they sat down at the table.
“I know… this has got me even more worried…what with Lin-”
“Keep your voice down!” Draco almost barked and the entire table jumped.
“Look who’s talking to keep the voice down…” She muttered sarcastically. “And how am I supposed to talk to you without shouting since you chose to sit so far away in the first place?” She hissed.
“Well it was your idea to get students stuck on the same chair to promote house-unity. I was very well content with them just being stuck on the allotted tables.” He hissed back.
“Guys!” Blaise broke through their banter. “You know you can discuss this later on. You both are receiving quite the odd looks from all around.”
They fell quiet after that.
“Blaise,” Hermione leaned towards him so as not to make herself heard and whispered in his ear (they were sitting beside each other), “I don’t see Linda anywhere. Where has she disappeared to?”
Blaise Zabini had to muster up all he had to not give in to the feeling of being so close to her with her breath tickling his ear. He reminded himself that she was someone else’s and clenched his fists under the table to refrain from giving in to his desire and run his hands through her hair.
Trying to maintain calm, he whispered back, “I’m not sure Mi… but we haven’t seen her since she abruptly left the hospital wing hours ago. I hate to admit it but I think something fishy is really going on… we really do need Dumbledore at Hogwarts right now.”
Their whispering had to be stopped then because the food appeared and they dug in the meals, throwing furtive glances at the staff.
On the other table, Harry and Parvati were too in a deep discussion, wondering about Dumbledore…and about Linda.
“Harry, I am truly scared. What if…something bad happens, like really awful?”
“Don’t worry Vati. I’m sure we’ll all make it through this fine; if we could face the war then this is nothing.”
“I know Harry…but it’s just that, after fighting a war just an year ago, I’m not sure if I can take all this anymore… I just wanted a peaceful normal life this time.”
“No one can understand that better than me,” Harry muttered, remembering all that he had to endure the past seven years. For once he had wanted a normal year at Hogwarts, but God seemed to have other plans. “But I’m sure this won’t be anything as big. Voldemort is gone, and there’s nothing worse than him. We’ll be fine Vati, I promise.” He gave her a reassuring smile and she nodded before resuming her eating.
‘I need a room where we can discuss about events privately…’ Hermione was repeating in her mind thrice as she, Draco and Blaise paced outside it. Just as the door appeared, Harry, Ron, Parvati, Ginny and Theo came rushing.
“Well we’re all here now, let us go.” Harry said and opened the door. They all stepped inside to find an almost empty room with sofas and armchairs in the centre.
They quickly went and sat, then looked up at Harry expectantly. He cleared his throat.
"Er… why are you all looking at me like this?” He mumbled, shifting his foot nervously.
“Ah come on Potter, you’re the one who defeated The Dark Lord. You’re the most skilled here at this stuff so we need some kind of opening from you.” Blaise mumbled.
“Right well I think Hermione is much better at analyzing stuff and coming up with ideas and all… I can help when the time for ‘action’ comes… you know spells and stuff…” He shrugged and Hermione took a deep breath.
“Well, I think we should first focus on Linda since everything points towards her. We should begin with the beginning… but before we start, I think we should have parchment and quill to take down notes-” At once a few pieces of parchment and quills appeared before her and she took one before continuing, “Okay so we know that her name is Linda Johnson,” She started to write it but then sighed. “This will take ages. Wait.” She took out her wand, tapped her quill and parchment with it before murmuring some spell and released them in the air. Everyone was looking at her amazed as the quill positioned itself and started to write on the parchment of its own accord.
“Wow, Mi… how did you do that?” Ron exclaimed.
“Well it’s just a little spell…” She said, a touch of red coloring her cheeks.
“Right on, let’s continue, shall we?” Theo muttered and she nodded.
“So as I was saying, her name is Linda Johnson. That is what we know. She supposedly used to study at a Wizarding School in Australia before that…”
They all discussed and talked for quite some time, and an hour later 3-4 parchments were filled, with information they had about the Blonde in question and her activities as observed by others since Day 1.
“Hmm… so finally we can sort of say, that Linda doesn’t seem to be the type that can be trusted.” Hermione said, scanning the parchments.
“So…could she be a death-eater in disguise? Or a dark wizard perhaps?” Parvati asked.
“Well that seems like a possibility.” Draco mused and the atmosphere chilled at his words.
With all that they had devised so far, and if they were correct, then it meant that a dark wizard was among them, right at Hogwarts, with who knows what intentions.
“She must be having some outside help…” Ginny said, in almost a whisper and subconsciously took Theo’s hand in hers.
“If…if she was the…cloaked figure that night…then we know that she has someone she goes to meet outside Hogwarts.” Ron croaked, his heart constricting painfully at the thought that the girl he had spent the past few months with could be what they thought.
“It will be okay Ron… don’t worry we’ll get to the bottom of this.” Hermione patted him on the shoulder.
He gulped. “Yeah, and you know what Mi, I am not going back to Burrow this Christmas. I am staying, for sure.” He told her, with a determined look in his blue eyes.
“I’m staying too. Better to figure this out rather than endure my father…” Theo said nodding vigorously.
“Me too…staying. I’ll owl mother the first thing tomorrow morning.” Draco said and Ginny also nodded her agreement to stay.
“Well…so that’s settled then. All of us are staying this Christmas.” Parvati concluded.
“Yups. But first, as decided, we all need to go and see McGonagall.”
Hermione checked her watch.
“It is almost going to be curfew and I don’t think it’s the right time to disturb McGonagall. Let us go tomorrow morning, first see Maddy and then meet up with Professor.”
“As always you’re right ‘Mione.” Harry grinned and then stretched. “Well I’m heading to bed now… night! See ya all tomorrow guys.” He got up and slowly others filed out too.
Hermione watched Draco strip down to his boxers, put on his night suit and then comb his hair. She was nicely tucked in his bed already, being instructed to sleep as she had had enough exertion the whole day.
“Draco… you comb your hair before sleeping?”
He jumped and turned around to look at her.
“I thought you had already slept.” He mumbled as he walked towards the bed.
She yawned. “Well I had, almost, but you know I cannot go to sleep without a proper good night kiss.” She gave him a sly smile.
“You’re one naughty girl Ms. Granger. At least you should have stopped me when I started changing right here…” He muttered as he got into the bed beside her.
She scooted closer to him and wrapped her arms around his neck, breathing in his cologne.
“Hmm…doesn’t matter… It was nothing I haven’t seen before.” She chortled at his sharp intake of breath. “What?” She asked innocently, her eyes meeting his.
"You’re really much more mischievous than I thought…” He mused before bringing their lips together. He felt her sigh in content against his lips and couldn’t help but smile himself.
After a few moments, they broke apart and Hermione nestled her head against his chest. He wrapped his hands around her waist and closed his eyes, ready to drift into a peaceful slumber after the long day.
“Draco?” Her voice was somewhat muffled against him.
“I was wondering if…” She trailed off and hearing the worry in her voice he opened his eyes and made her look up at him.
“What is bothering you, Love?”
“I was just worried about what is going to happen now… I mean will we be able to stop anything bad from happening?”
“Mi, as long as we are all together, I’m sure we’ll be able to overcome anything. If there’s something going on with Linda, we’ll figure it out and make sure the right thing is done. We won’t let anything happen to any of us and neither to Hogwarts. We’ll pass out from Hogwarts safe and happy… with no bad looming over us, and making sure this place remains as secure as it always has been. We’ll sort it all out these Christmas vacations itself.”
“Hmm…thank you. I love it when you get all this deep and stuff.” She murmured before planting another kiss on his lips.
Before falling into a deep sleep in the safety of her once enemy’s arms, only one thought crossed her mind, ‘One heck of a Christmas this is going to be.’
And Hermione didn’t have any idea how right she was.
A/N: I know guys it took me ages to update, as always, but well all I can do is apologize. I had a massive writer's block and I know this chapter wasn't all that great, but it was all I had. Also, I have decided one thing, instead of posting long chapters like always, I will now be posting shorter chapters (like this one) with quicker updates. I that that is better, right? Anyways, thank you for reading, and please do leave your thoughts in the little box below. Thank you :)
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